The Indians called the white settlers, “the long knives” on account of their notorious reputation for cutting down trees and whole forests. In many parts of the old World, the same land which has been continuously cultivated by farmers for thousands of years is still fertile today but when the white colonists settled in America, the virgin soil was so badly abused that within less than a decade, it would become sterile, the pioneer would simply abandon it without any regrets and move on. In constrast, the primitive man, and especially the American Indian, had a tremendous reverence for the natural world as sacred which is why the white man found the New World an unspoiled and virgin content. Not only primitive man, but the higher religions also share this same reverence for the natural world. Islam means literally “peace”, not only between men but also includes peace with animals and plants. The Qur’an reminds believers that “every animal of the earth and every creature flying on two wings are like peoples unto you and then unto Allah they shall be gathered.” Once a man carelessly plucked some leaves from a tree and the Prophet Muhammad rebuked him saying: “Every leaf glorifies Allah.” Another follower came to the Prophet Muhammad and confessed that he had burnt down an ant-hill because one of the ants had stung him. The Prophet Muhammad scolded him, saying that he had destroyed a community which glorifies Allah. To the modern mind this may seem sentimental but such a reverent attitude towards nature as a creation of God—not arbitrary legislation imposed from above—is the only remedy to stop air and water pollution by greedy industrialists who seek short-term commercial profit at the expense of long-range public welfare.
(Islam and Western Society, Maryam Jameelah, Adam Publishers, New Delhi, 1982, p. 95-96)